South African President Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team jetted into the country on Tuesday afternoon where there was an orgy of violence in Harare as heavily armed police fought running battles with vendors and MDC-T activists at the party’s headquarters, Harvest House.
Armed with AK rifles, baton sticks and teargas canisters, the police fired teargas into Harvest House and indiscriminately onto the streets, before sealing off Nelson Mandela Avenue, Angwa Street, First Street and Kwame Nkrumah Avenue, near the MDC-T headquarters.
The police assaulted people indiscriminately triggering a stampede which saw the public running into nearby business premises to seek refuge.
Many shops, including banks along Nelson Mandela Avenue, shut their doors fearing the clashes could degenerate into looting.
When a NewsDay crew arrived at the scene, a war-like situation prevailed as youths battled the police. The police were beating people indiscriminately while bricks could be seen flying at the forces.
The police fired teargas causing further mayhem as people, including mothers with babies, scurried for safety.
The drama in the capital comes after tensions in the shaky coalition government were already high after the police blocked weekend rallies meant to be addressed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
The rallies had been sanctioned by the High Court.
Yesterday, police spokesperson Andrew Phiri said the violence had been provoked by MDC-T activists who allegedly assaulted police details investigating a case of assault of a musician.
“Vendors selling pirated CDs assaulted a musician from Vabati VaJehova who had attempted to confiscate his works from them.
He went to report the case at the First Street Police Post and when the police came to investigate, one of the vendors ran away and sought refuge inside Harvest House,” Phiri said.
“The police gave chase, but were attacked by people inside Harvest House prompting them to return and reinforce.”
At least two police vehicles were stoned while several motorists had their vehicles damaged. At one time the police appeared to have been overpowered and many of them ran into private vehicles for cover.
MDC-T organising secretary Nelson Chamisa said his party was unaware why the party’s headquarters was attacked and inferred that the police action was motivated by a hidden agenda.
“Those whom the gods want to destroy they maketh mad first,” Chamisa said.
The chaos in Harare took place as Zuma’s facilitation team jetted into the country to hold negotiations with political parties in the inclusive government.
Violence had earlier broken out on Sunday when MDC-T and Zanu PF supporters clashed in Hatcliffe after Zanu PF activists allegedly disrupted an MDC-T meeting where Home Affairs co-minister Theresa Makone was scheduled to speak. Two MDC-T activists were arrested over the skirmishes.
Spokesperson of the facilitation team Lindiwe Zulu said in an interview yesterday morning, her team would meet GPA negotiators and other relevant bodies.
Zulu said: “We are actually in the plane right now and will be taking off shortly. So yes, we are on our way. We will be meeting the negotiators separately and also as a group depending on the situation.
“We will meet Copac, Zec, Jomic and other institutions and basically we are following up on the things they should have done in as far as the election roadmap is concerned.
We are looking at the outstanding issues, the grey areas – and we are basically following up on the progress.”
She said the team’s visit was scheduled and not in response to the banning of the MDC-T rallies or violence which occurred over the weekend.
“So far no one has raised any issue with us, but usually what happens is that if any of the parties have any grievances they raise the concerns with us and we will take it from there,” she said.